Students sits at his computer with headphones on as the sun sets in the window.

Finals are almost here (someone had to say it). While finals can be a stressful time any year, this year may bring more stress than usual. Here are 5 tips to help you get through it:

1: Listen to your body

When we are feeling preoccupied, stressed out or busy, it can be easy to forget to fulfill our most basic needs. During this time, it’s important to listen to our bodies. You can do this by using the HALT method:

  • H: Are you hungry? If the answer is yes, grab a snack or sit down for a meal to help relieve any “hangry” feelings you may be holding onto. Eating regular meals can also help you feel more energized, improve your mood and increase your concentration.
  • ​A: Are you angry? If the answer is yes, try to identify why and some ways you can address it. Take a deep breath, step back and allow yourself time to process your emotions. Once you’ve identified the root of your anger or frustration, let yourself calm down and brainstorm ways to address it in a healthy way. This may mean you need to create space for yourself, take a walk, get more sleep or talk through things with a friend or family member. 
  • L: Are you lonely? Being lonely doesn’t necessarily mean you’re alone. Even if you’re around other people, you can still feel distant, isolated, withdrawn or disconnected. If you experience any of these emotions, it may be time to reach out and have a conversation about what you’re going through with someone you trust. Look for ways that you can make connections with friends, family or peers. For instance, you may want to invite a few classmates for a virtual finals study session or schedule a weekly check-in or virtual game night with friends.
  • T: Are you tired? Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. If so, it may be time to take a break, do a quick meditation, stretch, lie down or simply close your eyes and take a deep breath.

2: Avoid comparing stress levels

Stress feeds off of stress, especially around finals. During this time, it can become commonplace for people to talk about how little sleep they’re getting or how many cups of coffee they need to get through the day, among other sacrifices. This type of comparison is often referred to as “stress bragging” and can be harmful to our mental health. In many cases, it sets the expectation that in order to be successful, we must sacrifice our own self-care. Instead of comparing how much additional stress you’ve taken on in the name of finals, work to prioritize self-care as a part of your finals plan and encourage others to do the same. 

3: Evaluate your expectations

Stress often results from unrealistic expectations and pressure. It’s important that we check in with ourselves periodically to evaluate our expectations and where they may be coming from. If you’re pressuring yourself to be perfect, it may hinder your ability to actually perform well. Talking to a friend or family member can offer some perspective and help you let go of things that may not be worth your mental energy. Remember that this year has been difficult, and it’s okay to not be okay. Avoid comparing your current performance, motivation and drive against that of a normal semester.

4: Remember this is temporary

While it may be hard to believe now, the COVID-19 pandemic is temporary, and so are finals. Remember that your grades are not a reflection of your value or self-worth. How you do on your exams also won’t determine the rest of your life. Things might feel difficult right now, but you will get through it.

5: Ask for help

Asking for help can be difficult, even when we need it. However, it’s important to remember that your friends, family, peers and professors all want you to succeed. If you’re not sure about expectations or need clarification on an assignment, contact your professor or TA for more information to help you move forward. 

If you’re struggling to cope with stress or anxiety around finals, consider reaching out to a friend or family member. Let them know what you’re going through and how they can help you get through this. Staying connected with loved ones is an important factor in managing stress and feeling supported. 

Feeling overwhelmed? Counseling & Psychiatric Services (CAPS) is here for you. They provide free services like virtual screenings, brief individual counseling appointments, workshops and more for undergrad and graduate students. CAPS is a great option if you would like to work with a counselor to come up with a personalized care plan specific to your needs. Learn more about how to get connected with CAPS. 

Health Promotion is also available to support students. They offer free, virtual Peer Wellness Coaching to help students set goals, connect with resources and achieve positive outcomes. 

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